Tag Archive: NYC

Jan 19 2015

Mutiny on the Hudson

The president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, has been publicly attacking Mayor William de Blasio over what he perceives as the mayor’s lack of support for the department. Mr. Lynch and what now appears to be a small group, having been throwing public temper tantrums since a grand jury on Staten Island refused to indict a police officer for the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died when the officer used the banned choke hold trying to arrest him for a misdemeanor. Since then the bad boys in blue have turned their backs on the mayor at the funerals for two police officers killed by a deranged man in the Brooklyn and booed him at police academy graduation ceremonies. If Mr, Lynch thinks these childish tactics gain sympathy from the public or the department’s rank and file, he is very mistaken.

In a new poll taken by Quinnipiac says that a large majority of New Yorkers disapprove of Mr. Lynch and his bullying:

New York City voters across racial lines disapprove of recent protests in which police officers turned their backs on de Blasio at the funeral of two police officers slain in the line of duty, a new Quinnipiac poll says.

Black, white and Hispanic voters disapprove of the decision by police officers to turn their backs 69 percent to 27 percent, the poll says.

New York voters of all races also disapprove of comments by police union leaders who said de Blasio had “blood on his hands” after two officers were shot and killed in Brooklyn while sitting in their patrol car in December. [..]

Voters said that those comments were “too extreme” by a margin of 77 percent to 17. The poll found that “there is no party, gender, racial, borough or age group which finds the comments ‘appropriate.'”

That’s not all. It appears that many of the PBA members are displeased with Mr. Lynch, as well:

Members of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association nearly came to blows on Tuesday during a meeting of delegates in Queens. There was pushing, shoving and lots of screaming at Patrick Lynch, president of the 23,000-member union. [..]

“This is what my members want!” a cop yelled near the end of the raucous meeting. “They want more cars, better vests, more manpower!”

And then the cop – one of about 350 in attendance – took a verbal jab at Lynch, who has called on de Blasio to offer a mea culpa for his continued lack of support for police.

“They don’t want an apology,” he said.

At the peak of the clash, about 100 cops were standing and screaming at Lynch, sources told the Daily News.[..]

The battle lines were clear when the meeting took an ugly turn. The Lynch supporters were generally from Manhattan and his detractors were delegates from Brooklyn and the Bronx, sources said.

New York Daily News columnist and a host of Democarcy Now!, Juan González thinks that Mr. Lynch needs to lose his job as head of the PBA for more reasons than his loud mouth and temper tantrums:

All these outbursts against de Blasio cannot obscure the fact that Lynch’s 15-year reign has been marked by bitter feuds with every mayor, by a rote defense of cops accused of unjustified use of lethal force, and by the repeated failure to win new contracts for his members except through state arbitration. [..]

Many police stationhouses in this city are in shameful disrepair, yet the PBA has done little to demand improvements.

More importantly, the union has gone five years without a contract. “Seventy-two percent of the unions settled in de Blasio’s first year and we missed the boat,” one PBA member said.

For the fourth time in the last five rounds of labor negotiations under Lynch, the PBA and the city are headed toward state arbitration. Lynch supporters say he’s gotten better raises than other city unions that way. But most labor leaders abhor arbitration because the results are generally unpredictable.

In 2008, for instance, arbitration saddled rookie cops with ridiculously low $25,000 starting pay. It took years for the PBA to undo the damage.

This time, Lynch can only hope for a two-year pact through arbitration. For thousands of cops hired since 2012, a settlement that only covers the two years before they joined the force will leave them with nothing.

The rise of New York’s police unions

By David Firestone, The Gusrdian

Many cities have experienced occasional outbreaks of the “blue flu”. Police officers get angry over a contract dispute or an argument with the mayor, and for a few days, refuse to report for work or write fewer tickets.

But only New York City has ever experienced decades of sustained militancy by its police unions – from repeated work slowdowns like the one now taking place, to riotous mass rallies and public denunciations, political campaigns, and well-funded legislative pressure. [..]

New York’s uniformed force is nearly three times as large as the next biggest force (in Chicago), giving its five police unions a far stronger voice than elsewhere. But sheer size cannot explain the outsize role the unions have long played in the police policies of the city, one almost equal to that of the police brass and city hall. [..]

Their most important ally over nearly a century has been the New York state legislature, which has used its constitutional ability to micromanage the city’s laws and finances to reward the police unions in countless ways. Those unions control a large bloc of votes, can cripple a campaign by portraying a candidate as against law and order, and take generous advantage of the state’s high political contribution limits. According to an analysis of campaign filings by the Guardian, the five police unions (one each for patrol officers, sergeants, lieutenants, detectives, and captains) have contributed more than $1.4m to the campaigns of state officials since 2010.

Even now, the unions are using their sizeable political power in Albany to try to strip the police commissioner of his ability to discipline officers for misconduct, whether it is corruption, brutality or engaging in a slowdown. In the final hours of last year’s session, both legislative chambers overwhelmingly passed a bill that would turn over all disciplinary proceedings to an arbitrator controlled by the unions.

Despite its diversity, the NYPD leans conservative and Republican. So long as the the Republicans control the New York State Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo panders to them, the police will continue to ride rough shod over the people who pay their salaries and who they are committed to “preserve and protect.”

Jan 13 2015

NYPD: Over-Policing and Under-Disciplined

New York City’s first police inspector general released a scathing report on the use of chokeholds by the NYPD.

The city’s first inspector general for the NYPD issued a stinging report Sunday questioning whether cops unnecessarily resort to prohibited chokeholds as a “first act” when words could calm things down instead.

In his first report, Inspector General Philip Eure found that in 10 recent cases involving chokeholds – the same banned maneuver responsible for the July 2014 death of Eric Garner – the cops received little or no discipline from higher-ups.

Eure questioned why, in four of the 10 cases, cops wound up using chokeholds as a “first act” against citizens who’d only confronted them verbally, not physically. [..]

Though the report focuses only on the 10 cases, the IG said the pattern he discovered has inspired him to examine a broader sample of use-of-force cases “in order to ascertain whether police officers are escalating encounters and using force too quickly in a systemic manner.”

The other problem that the report revealed that despite the call for “serious punishment” from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, most of the officers received a “slap-on-the-wrist loss of vacation days, “instruction” about police policy or no punishment at all,” all approved by then Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

One of the results of the massive slowdown by NYPD after the murders of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos is that crime rates were not impacted, adding to the argument that “Broken Windows” may be broken policy.

CompStat data showed that summons for parking, moving and criminal violations for the previous week are still down about 74, 65, and 71 percent compared to numbers last year. But the drop from the week before that compared to last year was even greater: all three categories showed declines of 90 or more percent.

Year-to-date murder, rape, robbery and felony assault complaints are down across the, CompStat data shows. [..]

For the critics of “broken windows” theory policing, which stipulates that paying close attention to smaller, quality-of-life issues will prevent greater crime, the NYPD slowdown has inadvertently lent them ammunition. Critics believe the mode of policing, fully supported by Mr. Bratton, unfairly targets minorities and isn’t proven to prevent spikes in crime.

Current Police Commissioner William Bratton, the author of the “Broken Windows” policy, thinks differently

“The trending of that would take a period of time that can’t be measured in the space of a week or now in the space of almost two weeks,” Mr. Bratton said. “We have certainly, undoubtedly the residual benefit of 20 some odd years of changed behavior in the city and that’s not going to be undone in the space of a couple of weeks.”

That, however, is a direct contradiction to his statement on the slowdown at a press conference , when he stated that “911 calls were being responded to, arrests were continuing to be made, and crime has continued to go down.”

He can’t have it both ways. Since 2012, the numbers support the latter. In an article at Salon by Blake Zeff, there were two factors that are proving the critics right.

Ironically, it was Kelly and Bloomberg who would help disprove their own argument. Amid increasing dissatisfaction and public protest, Kelly reportedly ordered precinct executive officers in 2012 to “audit the stop activity to assure better quality.” In 2013, the use of the tactic fell dramatically, which a law enforcement source tells Salon also derived from two additional pressures. First, then-candidate de Blasio spent much of his campaign attacking the practice, arguing that it was racially discriminatory (in the famous “Dante ad” featuring his teenage son, the younger de Blasio said his father would be “the only candidate to end a stop and frisk era that targets minorities”). As the issue got more attention and de Blasio’s campaign surged (largely on the popularity of this argument), this source says, cops were less inclined to pursue the tactic.

The second factor was a federal judge finding the practice unconstitutional, and ruling that, as implemented, it discriminated against minorities. The result was that in 2013, Bloomberg and Kelly (while unsuccessfully appealing that federal ruling) would oversee a massive decrease in the tactic’s implementation, with under 200,000 stops recorded – less than a third the number from just two years before. The result: crime continued to fall.

Could it happen again? That was the big question heading into this year, as de Blasio promised to scale back the practice even further (though not eliminate it), while maintaining strong safety numbers. A verdict was returned this week, with the city announcing that amid a 79 percent drop in stops from last year, crime continued to fall by 4.6 percent, reaching a record low in modern city history.

Blake Zeff joined Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s “Last Word,” to discuss the controversial policy.

At Vox.com, contributor Dara Lind thinks that both sides have gotten this wrong and presents a radical idea

Now, it appears that the NYPD is returning to its usual policy: interacting with residents, but mostly by calling them out for quality-of-life violations. That’s certainly how Bratton believes the NYPD can keep New York safe. But both the slowdown policy and the aggressive “speedup” going on now aren’t effective ways to reduce crime without antagonizing communities.

In fact, evidence suggests the most important thing police can do to reduce crime is to be physically present in neighborhoods – not whizzing by in squad cars, but out on the street interacting with residents. That’s the thesis of “hotspot policing,” a more recent trend in policing strategy.

The premise of “hotspot policing” is that when police focus their efforts on places – not people – who are most susceptible to crime, they’re most able to deter criminals from operating out in the open. (You’d think that criminals would simply shift their bases of operations, but that’s not what happens.)

What makes hotspot policing work, according to a series of studies from criminologists and case studies from police departments like Minneapolis, is police being out of their cars and physically in neighborhoods alongside residents for a certain amount of time. To be most effective, police need to engage with residents in friendly ways, like cleaning up graffiti, rather than writing up the people who painted it. When both of those conditions are met, crime doesn’t just go down when police are around, or even right after they leave – a month of regular hotspot policing can reduce crime in the area for weeks afterward.

It’s past time that the leadership of the police unions stop sniping at the De Blasio administration and sit down to talk about departmental discipline, better police tactics and healing the rift with the people of NYC.

Jan 06 2015

Crime Rates Dropped In NYC & Around the Country Last Year

Homicide rates are falling in most major cities across the US, especially in cities like New York, Detroit and Chicago. What is most notable in NYC is that the overall crime rate has fallen in 2014, the first year of the de Balsio administration, despite the end of “stop and frisk,” which was declared unconstitutional as carried out by the NYPD.

While this is good news, the NYPD has continued to throw its prolonged temper tantrum. Again on Sunday at the funeral for slain NYC Police Officer Wenjian Liu, a group of thin skinned members turned their backs to the screen as the mayor spoke. Since the slaying of the two officers on December 20, arrests and ticketing had fallen dramatically in all five boroughs

Police union leaders have denied the declines represent any organized work action, though they have urged their members to put their own safety first, which could curb enforcement in all but the clearest situations that called for an arrest.

The sustained declines, however, suggest something of a coordinated effort, even if it was not sanctioned by union leaders.

“People are talking to each other,” Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said on Sunday. “It became contagious.”

Even though both the mayor and his police commissioner William Bratton are touting  “Broken Windows” and a modified “stop and frisk,” declaring the policies are “here to stay,” the slow down may prove that the policies are broken. Civil rights attorney and former Brooklyn, N.Y., prosecutor, Charles F, Coleman, Jr. believes “Broken Windows” is a failure and it’s time to drop it.

At this point, there has been no significant impact to public safety because of the slowdown-during which tickets and summons for minor offenses have dropped more than 90 percent-and we’ve seen anything but the doomsday crime spree that Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch seemed to hope might cause widespread fear among New Yorkers.

Lynch, who leads the NYPD’s largest and most influential union, has been very critical of de Blasio in past weeks, accusing him of expressing anti-policing sentiments in his remarks after the Staten Island grand jury’s nonindictment in the Eric Garner choke hold case. [..]

In many ways, the slowdown is backfiring terribly and should force a bigger discussion about not only the need to revisit the “broken windows” approach to law enforcement in urban communities but also the age-old trend of funding America’s cities on the backs of the poor.

The broken-windows approach to law enforcement, which de Blasio endorsed during the early days of his tenure, is essentially Reaganomics’ trickle-down theory of policing. (Remember how well that worked out?) The idea is essentially that focusing on strict policing of smaller offenses will deter larger crimes from happening. However, the notion that police, by cracking down on low-level crimes like selling loose cigarettes and open containers, are going to deter hardened criminals is a dubious theory at best. This is, in part, because economics drives most real crime more than any other factor. [..]

So what is the real takeaway from the NYPD slowdown where “broken windows” is concerned? We already knew that it was flawed in theory, and we have seen it fail miserably in application. One wild and crazy idea is that this approach to policing and the slowdown are both about little more than power and economics. The Police Department is attempting to flex its muscles to remind de Blasio and the thousands of nonviolent protesters who have dared to speak out against NYPD practices that the city needs them. The message is essentially that, even beyond the prevention of crime, police are still needed to help generate critical amounts of revenue for the city’s operating budget.

These silly games aren’t limited to the Big Apple, however. From as far away as Ferguson, Mo., we’ve witnessed how municipalities balance their budgets on the backs of the poor through the financial windfall created by excessive fines and tickets (which, as an aside, invalidates the claim that there’s no such thing as police quotas). The same thing can be said forWashington, D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles and scores of other cities across the country. Pat Lynch is no doubt aware of this, and beyond any ineffective fear tactics, his real play here may very well be an intentional swipe at the city’s pocketbook, which could threaten to hijack next year’s budget.

If anything, that seems like a real crime worth policing.

Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s “All In,” addressed the massive drop in crime, the slow down and “Broken Windows” with author and former NYC police officer Pater Moskos.

It’s time for the end of this discriminatory policy and focus on the real concerns of our communities, jobs and education.

Sep 17 2012

Livestream: #OWS S#17 NYC

Livestream: #OWS S#17 NYC

Live stream videos at Ustream

Kevin has a Live Blog up at FDL with regular up dates from the scene in NYC.

Yesterday Code Pink co-director Rae Abileah was singled out by NYPD during a demonstration in front of Bank of America. She was waving a pink bra and was charged with “blocking a sidewalk”, although she was never told to move.

Occupy Wall Street has a new organizing campaign. David Dayen at FDL News Desk has the details:

Now, Occupy has another action-based offshoot that starts with the Debt Resistor’s Operations Manual. Over the weekend, activists handed out 5,000 free copies of the manual in the events prior to today’s anniversary. The group leading the way is known as Strike Debt. The idea is to give practical tips to people who have navigated a default event, either through housing, student loan, credit card or medical debt. The idea is to provide advice to people drowning in debt, some of it from insiders in the lending industry, to help navigate and resist. The ultimate goal is to help people renegotiate and restructure their debt, which is related to Occupy Our Homes, but with a much broader focus. This is from Strike Debt’s initial press release:

   Everyone is affected by debt, from recent graduates paying several hundreds of dollars in interest on their students loans every month, to working families bankrupted by medical bills, to the teachers and firefighters forced to take pay cuts because their cities are broke. 76% of Americans are serious debtors. At least 1 in 7 are being pursued by debt collectors. Debt is the tie that binds the 99%.

   Whistleblowers have revealed a widespread pattern of immoral and illegal activity on the part of lenders and collection agencies. Yet our elected officials have proved that they are unwilling to rein in the finance industry or provide debt relief to the citizenry. The Debt Resistor’s Operations Manual is the first of several Strike Debt projects aimed at helping debtors evict Wall Street from their lives and take the first step towards creating a credit system that serves the people and not the profit margins of the 1%.

The manual, available here, offers practical tips on how to challenge debt collectors, errors on credit ratings, and bankruptcy laws. This goes well beyond a simple helpful hints manual, however, moving more into a history and ethnography of debt in the 21st century, a peek behind the curtain at how the lending industry targets and bleeds dry those in need of short-term funds. It looks at the institutional forces behind services for the unbanked like check cashing outlets and payday lenders, noting that these cost much more than traditional banking for the same services.

Jun 30 2011

“Turtles Hit The Tarmac at JFK”

Sometimes I love New York

Mama Turtles Put JFK Runway On Hold

Dec 11 2010

NYC Gov going “Locavore” Big Time!

Posted earlier at La Vita Locavore and DailyKos.

Cross-posted at DailyKos.

Yesterday on The Leonard Lopate Show the lead story was called Feeding The Soul and for anyone seeking to restore their faith in good government, it did just that. Two guest in an interview to discuss Food Works in New York City that would have seemed an unlikely pair as recently as two days ago.

One was Chef Dan Barber who has been a great advocate in the New York area for the local food movement. The other was City Council speaker Christine Quinn. yesterday they were on the same page. It was amazing to hear Christine Quinn’s introduction sounding more like Marion Nestle in talks about what the government needs to do, hearing a powerful politician discussing things being done now and progressive plans for a sustainable future. I’ve never heard such a merger of bottom up activism and top down good government action before.

The city has already moved $4.5 million in public school food spending over to local farms and is trying to change the $300,000 spent on school lettuce to money being pumped into the Rockland County farm economy and processing facilities in the economically depressed Bronx. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Nov 22 2010

My Views from Last Week

Posted at DKos as “Just Looking.”

I have a few pleasant photography stories to tell from a week ago. Between the autumn color and the desperation of one last warm weather week, it was a good week for a photo buff. Now don’t go busting my bubble by just looking at the photos because you can learn a lot from a photographer. We see things.

Below you will find a Third Rock from the Sun brief encounter during an evening walk in the Village. I have several memories from a lecture I attended on photojournalism. There is a pleasant Veterans Day walk under the George Washington Bridge on the New Jersey side followed by a sunset from the New York side. Then a Friday afternoon walk in Central Park with some music videos I made and all day Saturday there too. There is even a little taste of Florence, Italy.

Nov 08 2010

My Views This Week

Cross-posted at Progressive Blue, Docudharma and even the Big O.

What a tough week this has been, the Yankees were out of it and the Jets had a buy week. To make matters even worse the right wing corporate home team got the great shellacking by the visitors from beyond the right field wall. But I was walking around with the old camera and taking photos. Plenty of photos, plenty of back lighting.

I spent the week with a familiar song locked in my head, the lyric “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” After the past two years I could never again come up with a reason to support a Dem but without the tradition of photography I would be a shaky as a fiddler on a roof. So during that fabulous Jets win, I slapped together a few photos from the week.